Top 10 Tips for Getting Promoted

The frustrating reality for parents today: The standard work model required from roughly age 25 to 45 is Monday through Friday, eight to 10 hours per day. We need to invest sweat equity at work to keep our jobs and get promotions and raises and benefits. Unfortunately for the children involved, that time frame is when they need parents most.

Parenthood and work inevitably and repeatedly collide, demanding that we be in two separate places at once. But many people are still accomplishing the impossible, figuring out how to work diligently, stay late, schmooze the boss, build rapport with co-workers, volunteer for overtime, get promoted and still leave at five for day-care pickup.

Here's how On Balance readers juggle getting ahead with being there for our kids.

1. Do your job and do it well when you are there.

2. Technology, technology, technology. Get a Blackberry and use it. Invest in a good laptop with a remote connection to your job's network. Be available, even if it is not from the office.

3. Reframe the terms. Instead of focusing on "I have to leave at five for day-care pickup" turn the attention (your own, your bosses', your co-workers') to "the 10 great things I do every day in a very time efficient manner" or "how much money I'm contributing to the company's bottom line" or "here's why I think my skills will translate well into the new position."

4. Leave earlier. Many offices have an important end-of-day errand that needs to be done. So volunteer to be the person who takes deposits to the bank or drops packages off at the post office or that inconvenient FedEx box that happens to be in front of your kids' school.

5. Figure out how to help your co-workers and don't ever expect others to pick up your slack. Everybody has needs. You need to leave at five to get to day care on time. A co-worker may need a non-standard lunch hour to take a class. Another co-worker may "need" a batch of homemade cookies every week. Figuring out what your boss wants is obvious -- but catering to your co-workers is even more important.

6. Invest in a good screen saver. If you're in a cubicle environment and don't want everybody who wanders by to know that you have left for the day, make your office look like you'll be right back. Leave a folder of non-sensitive papers open by your computer, leave a light on and get a screen saver with official-looking work.

7. Dress the part. It's easy to descend into wearing clothes that transition from work into the "second-shift" of child-care duties. Every week make sure to wear a few outfits that scream "I've got great skills and deserve this promotion."

8. After the kids are in bed and before they get up in the morning, do some work from home via telephone, computer or Blackberry. No one needs to know you are working from home -- they just need to know you are working.

9. Be accessible 24/7. Spread the word that you are always available via cellphone or e-mail. Ironically, people without kids may be less available in emergencies because they are white-water rafting in West Virginia or watching a marathon indie film festival or recovering from a hangover. Use your kid-required accessibility to your advantage.

10. Have a backup child-care or school pickup plan (spouse, friends, neighbors, relatives) because some days you just won't be able to leave at five.

Next week: Send me your Tips for Responding to Inappropriate Personal Questions at Work so I can include them in next Monday's Top 10 Tips.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  April 14, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Top Ten Tips
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Comments

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I have EVER done any of the below:

"8. After the kids are in bed and before they get up in the morning, do some work from home via telephone, computer or Blackberry. No one needs to know you are working from home -- they just need to know you are working.'"

"9. Be accessible 24/7. Spread the word that you are always available via cellphone or e-mail. Ironically, people without kids may be less available in emergencies because they are white-water rafting in West Virginia or watching a marathon indie film festival or recovering from a hangover. Use your kid-required accessibility to your advantage."

And I've been offered a number of promotions. I wouldn't work where the above is required.

Posted by: Jake | April 14, 2008 7:55 AM

Correction: I have NEVER done any of the below:

Posted by: Jake | April 14, 2008 7:56 AM

I'm single and successful, and this reads like everything I have eschewed in my career. Employers have no right to expect 24 hour access and 24 work. There really aren't that many jobs in which lives hang in the balance if we don't complete that email. And manipulating those around you with bribes of baked goods is just plain snarky. Do your work at work, don't surf the net. Its funny how much more you'll get done. FYI, I'm writing this at home, before I head to the job.

Posted by: babsy1 | April 14, 2008 8:03 AM

"6. Invest in a good screen saver. If you're in a cubicle environment and don't want everybody who wanders by to know that you have left for the day, make your office look like you'll be right back. Leave a folder of non-sensitive papers open by your computer, leave a light on and get a screen saver with official-looking work."

Try this fradulent, energy wasting stunt in my office and you will be invited to resign.

Posted by: Bosses aren't stupid | April 14, 2008 8:14 AM

"Next week: Send me your Tips for Responding to Inappropriate Personal Questions at Work so I can include them in next Monday's Top 10 Tips."

Leslie

Read your own blog! This topic has been covered ad nauseam.

Posted by: Do your own work | April 14, 2008 8:17 AM

I'm guessing response to these tips is going to vary by generation & profession quite a bit.

I'm Gen-X and work in digital media/publishing, and sorry people who posted above me, but I do work evenings, weekends, and mornings. Because if I don't, you people who refuse to work on weekends but want your fresh stories during that time (or stories about what happened during that time) will freak the heck out and go to the competition. :)

Okay, that rant over, I think a lot of these are good. I have some tips to add:


- work ahead of deadline wherever possible because if you procrastinate on something, that WILL be the day everyone comes down with the stomach flu
- set your office up for success: make sure key files are reachable by other people if you are not there and empower them to get the information they need if you happen to be on the road or whatever
- volunteer to be the meeting organizer, so that you can make sure your meetings don't go past when you want to leave
- have your priorities in place. For me, right now, my child is young and his needs do occasionally trump my image at work. I deal with it.

Posted by: Shandra | April 14, 2008 8:24 AM

shandra - brilliant. absolutely -- work ahead of deadline. also i always want to be the meeting organizer b/c of what you said. if i'm not, i have a policy of arriving to meetings five minutes late and leaving 15 minutes early because almost nothing gets done in the first and last minutes, just chit chat.

and yes, many of these tips may seem duplicitious (although I protest that the deceptions are very minor ones). having worked for several small and large companies, i can attest that we are simply adapting to the environment that exists. the problem is not with individual employees trying to game the system. the problem is a system that rewards face time over productivity, and doesn't allow employees the flexibility they deserve to be good parents and productive workers at the same time.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 8:31 AM

"and yes, many of these tips may seem duplicitious (although I protest that the deceptions are very minor ones)."

Interesting moral compass.

Posted by: Confused | April 14, 2008 8:44 AM

Leslie's list contains the standard, text-book suggestions on how to get the reputation of an office brown-noser, however, I think she misses the point of how to get promoted. In fact, diligent work and competency can sometimes hinder Joe Officedog's chances for promotion - "We can't take Joe off the project right now, not unless we hire 3 other people to take his place..."

Promotions go to
1. People who qualified themselves through the educational process
2. Attractive people
3. Effective communicators, whether work-related or not (The good ol' boy network is still alive and thriving), and
4. If you can get others to do your work for you, ding, ding, ding, - management material for sure!

Posted by: DandyLion | April 14, 2008 8:53 AM

How about this:
Show up on time and dressed appropriately.
Do your job and do it well.
Don't whine about what everybody else is or isn't doing (A is always late; B always leaves early).

Posted by: Ms State the Obvious | April 14, 2008 9:09 AM

11 This one is so sneaky and snarky that it cannot be printed!
10. Sing boss's favorite song each morning, just hope it's not "Chain of Fools"
9. Use the bullet points from Susie Sunshine's Power Point
8. Think the raise, dream the raise, live the raise, get the raise
7. Oh, your said promotion, not premonition! Nevermind
6. Promotion is easier to spell than provocateur
5. Do what you did in high school, crib the eval from the smartest worker
4. Limit your internet use to just 4 working hours per day.
3. Sing the boss's favorite song every morning, just hope it isn't a Johnny Paycheck song
2. Remember, Dogbert, not Dilbert, for your work coach!
1. Put it on Earl's List, he will do it for you!

Posted by: Fred | April 14, 2008 9:18 AM

Don't clean fish in the office. Wait a minute - he GOT promoted didn't he.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 14, 2008 9:25 AM

Bravo Ms State, and thanks. I can't count the number of people I've had to counsel over the years for tardiness. I've managed to have an outstanding career by being on time to work, getting my work in ahead of time or on time, and not sniping at others, or to others. Being prepared for meetings, having solutions for the problems I identify, and not bad-mouthing the institution go a long way as well.

Posted by: babsy1 | April 14, 2008 9:30 AM

OTOB, if you hurry to get to work on time, Gene Weingarten wins the Pulitzer Prize by describing you as a Philistine who wouldn't stop for a few minutes to listen to one of the world's greatest violinists playing a freebie in the Metro station.

Posted by: OTOH | April 14, 2008 9:34 AM

1. Start and end meetings on time with an agenda and menaiful action points (Leslie will ----- by the end of April).

2. Be available 24/7, and people will walk all over you. Set and enforce meaningful limits. Communicate them in advance to your colleagues.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 9:37 AM

Over the years I've worked for private sector companies, I've seen dozens of incredibly hard-working, smart, ethical employees stay stuck at their pay and responsibility level (or worse: lose their jobs) because they didn't know how (or couldn't bring themselves to) toot their own horns and practice a few of the above tips.

At the same time, I've seen many a manipulative, duplicitous, snarky-snark get ahead because he or she knows how to work the system.

That's a shame. It's not good for companies' morale or productivity, employees, or families. Just trying to level the playing field here...Thanks for all the additional tips.

Posted by: Leslie | April 14, 2008 9:37 AM

OTOH, if you hurry to get to work on time.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 9:37 AM

OTOH

"Gene Weingarten wins the Pulitzer Prize by describing you as a Philistine who wouldn't stop for a few minutes to listen to one of the world's greatest violinists playing a freebie in the Metro station."

Weingarten, as usual, is full of it. If his lawyer wife had a court date in front of a cranky judge, would she had risked being late?

Posted by: Wah? | April 14, 2008 9:39 AM

I work in a government agency so the promotion policy is very clearly stated and it is fairly easy to get promoted up to a certain level. In my personal experience it has been really hard to move to the top tier of government promotion potential even if the position includes the posibility of such a promotion. At this level I found it to be subjective and to depend totally on the attitude of one's manager. Some managers just don't want to promote people, period. The managers that I have unfortunately been exposed to have been a LONG time in the government service and for them attaining "14" or "15" below a certain age goes against their own experiences. Plus, government agencies don't like to be top heavy or appear to be top heavy.

Posted by: DC reader | April 14, 2008 9:40 AM

Gene Weingarten is a genius. His Pulitzer has renewed my faith in the wisdom of Pulitzer committees. Anybody who can make me fall off my stationary bike laughing deserves 100 awards. As does his longtime editor, Tom Shroder, working magic behind the scenes.

Posted by: Leslie | April 14, 2008 9:45 AM

The Pulitzer comm was just wrong to give Weingarten an award for that article.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 10:10 AM

What are posts being deleted?

Posted by: Me | April 14, 2008 10:14 AM

Yes, my boss does NOT do this:

- set your office up for success: make sure key files are reachable by other people if you are not there and empower them to get the information they need if you happen to be on the road or whatever

So that he can never be on vacation. He thinks that means he is valuable. No one else does.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 10:14 AM

The reality is that most people have no idea how others get promoted. Management may say certain things, then promote people who aren't quite the best, or whatever.
It's not quite a clear path, and the harder you work, sometimes, the less likely you might be to get promoted - or at least that's how it appears to many in the corporate environment.

So then you get shenanigans like Leslie is talking about - appear to be there, be available - because the corp structure always keeps you guessing as to whether you are doing a good job or not - and if you are, it's rare that anyone knows about it.

Or you don't know why people *are* getting promoted. So there you go.

Posted by: atlmom | April 14, 2008 10:18 AM

You could always sleep with the boss.

Posted by: Troublemaker | April 14, 2008 10:19 AM

Good list!

At my previous job, I used to volunteer to work Saturdays since I couldn't ever take the early morning shift and still get my kids to school. My willingness to take an unpopular shift meant my single colleagues were a whole lot more able to accept my limitations as a single parent.
In my current job I carry a Blackberry and I do respond to inquiries seven days a week. I'm also hooked up at home and can access voice mail and e-mail etc. Again I'm trying to balance other inconveniences to my colleagues and employers, like the fact that sometimes I have to bolt from the office to pick up a sick kid (or one that missed the bus to afterschool, like last week!)
Flexibility has to go both ways and so far, I don't find anyone abusing my willingness to be available outside office hours.

Posted by: anne | April 14, 2008 10:24 AM

The post calling Weingarten's prize-winning article just a cheap publicity stunt was deleted. Anyone else suspect the Post is touchy much?

Posted by: To Me at 10:14 | April 14, 2008 10:30 AM

"The post calling Weingarten's prize-winning article just a cheap publicity stunt was deleted. Anyone else suspect the Post is touchy much?"


The censorship is evidence of WaPo's hypocrisy. No shocker here.

Posted by: No brainer | April 14, 2008 10:41 AM

If you have a boss with a regular schedule, figure out what time he or she arrives every morning, and get in a little before. Be busy working at your desk when the boss arrives. It just looks good, for some reason. Coming in late and staying late does not have the same effect. It must be something about the American work ethic that early risers seem to have the advantage, in appearances at least, over the stay at work late people. Not fair, but such is life.

Posted by: emily | April 14, 2008 10:42 AM

If a tip doesn't apply to you then don't use it. The list and many of the comments so far illustrate the tremendous variety that exists in the workplace. Not every tip will work for every work environment. And not every individual will be interested in applying every tip. But that doesn't mean that the suggestions themselves aren't valuable to someone somewhere.

Posted by: If a tip doesn't apply to you... | April 14, 2008 10:53 AM

Oh just for ha-ha's, let me tell you how not to get promoted (or in this case not get the job at all)
In my 20s I applied for a part-time waitressing job for the summer. I had a cheap living situation and was working on my great (now-defunct) first novel and I wasn't interested in discussing it with strangers so when the interviewer asked me why I was only applying for part-time work, I said "because I don't want to have to work too hard."
Hmm didn't get that job. Wonder why?

Posted by: anne | April 14, 2008 10:54 AM

Hey, that was me deleting those posts, and I deleted several on Friday. In order to make an argument for registration-freedom, I need to nip nasty posting in the bud. I believe in freedom of expression but not in being mean-spirited. Totally subjective and of course I won't be able to please all the people all the time, but I'm doing my best to stop ranting that's overly negative. If you don't want to be deleted, don't be nasty!

Posted by: Leslie | April 14, 2008 10:54 AM

Love that story, Anne!

Posted by: Leslie | April 14, 2008 10:55 AM

And, Leslie, it is unlikely any company will allow you to have a personal setup to get on the company system. They will allow you to have their computer and they will allow you to access it their way. You can ask for all the stuff you need, and typically will get it depending on what you do, but they will rarely allow you to do anything but check email on your personal computer.

Posted by: atlmom | April 14, 2008 10:56 AM

Here's another one. Obvious to me, but some people don't get it.

Don't be a whiner. Find solutions, not problems.

Posted by: emily | April 14, 2008 10:58 AM

Hey, Leslie, it's your blog, delete or not as you'd like, seriously. If people don' tlike it, they can go away...

Posted by: atlmom | April 14, 2008 10:58 AM

Leslie

"I believe in freedom of expression but not in being mean-spirited. Totally subjective and of course I won't be able to please all the people all the time, but I'm doing my best to stop ranting that's overly negative. If you don't want to be deleted, don't be nasty!"

The Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves. "Nasty" is a kid's word. "Ranting" by definiton is negative. Harvard must be proud.

Posted by: Confused | April 14, 2008 11:03 AM

Very tempting, Confused...

Posted by: Leslie | April 14, 2008 11:14 AM

"It must be something about the American work ethic that early risers seem to have the advantage, in appearances at least, over the stay at work late people. Not fair, but such is life."

Too true, all that "early bird gets the worm" crap. I am lucky to have a boss now who is a late-night worker. I've discovered that it's actually the best time to get a prompt email response to questions, so when I work late at night we often are in communication. I've also been known to find excuses to email my boss or co-workers just as I am signing off when I work late as sort of a lame substitute for face time, letting them know you're working kind of thing. It's cheesy, but it's been effective.

Posted by: Late worker | April 14, 2008 11:40 AM

my company allows full access of my work desktop at home thru commercially available software. worldwide! Not a tech biggie!

Posted by: fred | April 14, 2008 11:42 AM

Leslie, THANKS!

atlmom, your comment about being able to work from home, e.g., only being able to access email, is no more generally applicable than Leslie's encouragement of same. In my workplace, we all have laptops we take home on almost a daily basis (by choice, not requirement), as do the clients with whom I communicate by e-mail after the kids are in bed.

If you don't have the flexibility, obviously that tip doesn't work for you; however, many of those in jobs with intense and/or high-time demands do provide the flexibility to get work done, including communications, from home. God Bless Citrix and web-based email applications.

Even if all you can do is read and respond to email, if you do it from home or during your commute, you are better positioned to hit the ground running when you arrive, and more likely to have an efficient morning.

There is nothing fraudulent about selecting a screensaver or placing a file on your desk. If it keeps the busybodies to whom you don't report from kvetching about when you depart, you might just be contributing to world peace. I wouldn't do it, but I'm not in a workplace where I have anything to fear from stupid people. OTOH, I have friends who are and, to use an apt cliche, the best defense is a good defense.

Finally, Gene's article was phenomenal, but even if you hated it, why blast him personally? Isn't it more than a bit hostile and immature to lodge personal attacks about a stranger's motives for doing a job you don't want? Or is the hate coming from Clinton fans who don't like Gene's frequent comments about the Queen of Entitlement?

Posted by: MN | April 14, 2008 11:52 AM

MN


"There is nothing fraudulent about selecting a screensaver or placing a file on your desk. If it keeps the busybodies to whom you don't report from kvetching about when you depart, you might just be contributing to world peace. I wouldn't do it, but I'm not in a workplace where I have anything to fear from stupid people. OTOH, I have friends who are and, to use an apt cliche, the best defense is a good defense. "


Again, interesting moral compass.

Posted by: Confused | April 14, 2008 11:58 AM

Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Note that the founding fathers guaranteed freedom of speech from gov't interference. The constitution does not address speech between private individuals.

Private bodies have every right to moderate speech. Read the rules you agree to when posting here. The rules are at the bottom of the column.

Posted by: try reading | April 14, 2008 11:58 AM

MN

Weingarten's article was his idea, so he gets the glory or takes the flak for it. It was an elitist idea, in that a lot of working stiffs commuting by Metro don't have the luxury to stop & "smell the roses" (listen to the musician) if they know they will get penalized at work for being late, especially if they may occasionally be late for important reasons in family life, like their childrens emergencies.

Posted by: OTOH | April 14, 2008 12:03 PM

In my current institution, the way to get ahead is to be the best friend of the boss, delegate work to others but take full credit for it, and be sure you claim to be at work on paper while you stay home one day a week. Oh, and don't forget changing your day off every week, so no one knows if you really are supposed to be here. Of course, none of your peers will work with you, eat with you, or recommend you to outside agencies. But you will be promoted as high as you can be by the boss, and you will be held up as an example by the boss to others (who will snicker softly under their breaths). How will you sleep at night? I imagine that if you feel comfortable with this career plan, sleep will not be a problem for you.

Posted by: babsy1 | April 14, 2008 12:04 PM

Hey, Try reading: it's not a *personal* attack to criticize Gene's article on its merits, it's a legitimate public comment on published reporting. That's part of the tradeoff for being in the newspaper biz.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 12:05 PM

I wasn't necessarily referring to the Weingarten post but to other abusive and ad homimen attacks which have been posted since registration was suspended.

Posted by: try reading | April 14, 2008 12:11 PM

try reading

"I wasn't necessarily referring to the Weingarten post but to other abusive and ad homimen attacks which have been posted since registration was suspended."

Spelling Police

Posted by: Sigh | April 14, 2008 12:16 PM

spelling police, maybe, just maybe I did that on purpose to give you something to complain about!

Posted by: try reading | April 14, 2008 12:19 PM

Oh, what I meant to say is "no Pulitzer for me!"

Posted by: try reading | April 14, 2008 12:20 PM

Again, interesting moral compass.

Posted by: Confused | April 14, 2008 11:58 AM

If you disagree, back it up. Otherwise, you're just snarking.

My moral compass is far more conservative than the average bear, not that I expect others to share it. Nonetheless, I am not obligated to get tongues wagging.

What is immoral about the selection of a screensaver, whether it is mountains, a dancing baby or a document? Lying on your timesheets, timeshifting voicemail messages, making affirmative misrepresentations to boss, clients, or colleagues about what you're doing - you'll get no disagreement from me that these behaviors indicate lack of a moral compass. If you express substantive support for your suggestion that a screensaver represents a move toward Satan, I'm certain we will be all-ears.

Posted by: MN | April 14, 2008 12:23 PM

Spelling Police, learn to recognize the difference between a spelling error & a mere typo.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 12:23 PM

"There is nothing fraudulent about selecting a screensaver or placing a file on your desk."

Agreed - my company requires us to have a screensaver up if we are not at our desk for 15 minutes or more -- it kicks in automatically to prevent other people from seeing potentially sensitive information. So if you came by our office at 6 pm, you wouldn't know if someone was gone or just out grabbing dinner (more likely the case) just by looking at a computer screen. (We are told not to turn off our computers so IS can do updates at night.) People are more likely to figure out you are gone by looking to see if your coat and bags are gone than if your computer is on.

Posted by: tsp 2007 | April 14, 2008 12:29 PM

or dyslexia

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 12:29 PM

or dyxlesia

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 12:32 PM

A thousand unemployed wannabe comics and they are all here today!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 12:34 PM

"A thousand unemployed wannabe comics and they are all here today!"

Including you.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 12:45 PM

oh, absolutely!

Posted by: 12:34 | April 14, 2008 12:46 PM

Yes, MN - but you are saying what I am saying. You are saying you take your *work* computer home to do work on it.

Leslie was implying that if a company does not supply it, you could use your home computer. As (I think) Fred indicated, some companies utilize the software to do that, but many don't - and if they don't, they will rarely allow you to use your own computer to access their network.

And I am not allowed to leave my laptop docked overnight - so if I need/want to work from home, I have to take that - even if I could use the software to access it remotely.

Posted by: atlmom | April 14, 2008 12:56 PM

Every office is different on time cycle/boss preferences but I remember being cross-examined by a former boss as to why everyone left at 5 on the dot. (At the time he was the only person who had children, interestingly enough) He got in around 0900/0930 and worked past 1900. Most of us were in between 0730/0830 to cover certain fixed responsibilities, there was rotating on-call and 25-40% travel schedule. We were of the mind that we "gave" enough time while on travel that leaving on time while in town was something we needed to do to stay sane. In the fed arena though I have to agree with Emily... people are in EARLY.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | April 14, 2008 12:59 PM

If you have a boss with a regular schedule, figure out what time he or she arrives every morning, and get in a little before. Be busy working at your desk when the boss arrives. It just looks good, for some reason. Coming in late and staying late does not have the same effect.

Posted by: emily | April 14, 2008 10:42 AM

depends on the boss. if she likes to be able to hand things off at 4:30 for completion before tomorrow morning, your planned 5:30 departure will not work to meet her needs. It's more important to figure out what your boss expects than to plan on doing one or the other.

Posted by: Say Ni to the Spelling Police | April 14, 2008 1:12 PM

"There is nothing fraudulent about selecting a screensaver or placing a file on your desk."

I don't think it's fraudulent, but I do think it's weird to be deliberately misleading about your whereabouts. I can see, as MN points out, how it would be more reflective of the workplace culture than anything else. I think it would make me pretty uneasy to work that way - much happier being able to be straightforward about when I'm around and when I'm not, and I'm lucky my boss is cool that way.

Posted by: LizaBean | April 14, 2008 1:24 PM

I always tell graduate students that the most difficult thing for them to learn is that once they take on their new roles, they will no longer be nursing staff. While it is great to make the staff happy, the one person they must satisfy is the boss. Learning how to manage up is critical. The boss has no obligation to adapt to you - you must adapt to the boss. Most tell me that this has been the most valuable advice they got in grad school. Of course, some bosses (previous post) are more difficult than others.

Posted by: babsy1 | April 14, 2008 1:30 PM

I personally find antipatrick's post at 1:30 to be rather offensive.

Posted by: dotted | April 14, 2008 1:33 PM

Know the work-life balance of your office. Some places want you to choose your worklife over your homelife.


I once worked at a place where a guy was bucking for a promotion to VP. He was probably the best guy for it. One Sunday his son was in an awful car accident and was in critical condition. This guy came into the office on Monday and told us what happened. The CEO questioned why he was there at the office at all and not with his son? He said that he was loyal to his job.

He never got the promotion. But his son recovered.

Posted by: Dan | April 14, 2008 1:34 PM

babsy: "The boss has no obligation to adapt to you - you must adapt to the boss."

While this is literally true, it doesn't apply to the smart/successful boss. She learns to make the best use of the staff available to her - which means adapting to the employees.

Just a comment on Leslie's point 7 - "dress the part". It's generally true, but "the part" changes. If you're in a hard-core engineering shop, coming in to work in a suit, or a designer dress, is just going to raise suspicion that you're going out for an interview with somebody else.

There's a corollary that says the better you are at your job, the more you're allowed to have your own sense of style. At one previous job, I worked with the most talented female engineer I've ever seen. The woman was a genius. But at the same time the joke around the office was that you could tell when winter turned to spring because she switched from her leather miniskirts to her denim micro-skirts. (She was in her early 50's at the time.) Did anybody say anything to her about it? No, they did not, because you DID NOT tick her off.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | April 14, 2008 1:38 PM

ArmyBrat

How DARE you say those nasty and hateful things to Leslie and the other posters! Your rant is out of order, Mister!

Posted by: Doormat | April 14, 2008 1:45 PM

Dotted -- Agreed. Deleted. Thanks.

One crucial tip I cannot believe I forgot to include: treat the tech folk(s) like gold. My companies always had that rule -- no email or computer file access unless it was a work computer...yadda yadda yadda.

But by being one of the few people who treated the techies the way they DESERVE to be treated (like gold) I've always managed to get remote access to email and all files. The first place I did this was the best, because no one else had it. Everyone thought I was in the office all the time when I wasn't. Didn't have kids yet so it was kind of a waste. But fun!

Posted by: Leslie | April 14, 2008 1:48 PM

Also, worth noting that co-workers are pretty clever (more so than bosses) about figuring out where you actually are. So the screensaver, open files on desk, light on at night, only go so far.

I worked with one sales manager who always brought in two gym bags. When he worked out at lunch he left one conspicuously on a chair so his boss would think he was out with clients, not at the company gym. Rest of us knew but it fooled the boss.

Until the sales manager was fired for sexual harrassment. That was harder to hide!

Posted by: Leslie | April 14, 2008 1:52 PM

The advice I remember getting was to always try to have the smartest person be on your project team. The project will get done and on time. (Like in school: do a project with the kid with all As) Success always aids promotion.

Posted by: dotted | April 14, 2008 1:59 PM

"My companies always had that rule -- no email or computer file access unless it was a work computer...yadda yadda yadda.

But by being one of the few people who treated the techies the way they DESERVE to be treated (like gold) I've always managed to get remote access to email and all files."

Leslie, I've always wondered why some people think they are so special/important/privileged, etc, that the rules don't apply to them. In my workplace, if you break the rules you stand a very good chance of losing the job.

Posted by: to Leslie | April 14, 2008 2:07 PM

Leslie's point about being nice to the systems support people is a very good one. Over the years, I compiled a list of the people I had to be extra-nice to. Depending on context, it included:

- admin support. They can make your life h-e-double-hockey-sticks, or they can make it easy. Your choice
- system administrators. Same as the admin, but electronically!
- travel support staff. Do you want this trip to be easy, or difficult? Do you want to fly to Hong Kong on the non-stop from Chicago, or do you want to go by way of Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, Tokyo and Seoul?


The same applies to folks like the gate agent at the airport, the customs officer at the border, and others. For a few moments, these people have the ability to make your life easy and fun, or completely miserable for the next six hours. Your choice.

Note that "bosses" are nowhere on the list. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | April 14, 2008 2:12 PM

There's a big difference between breaking rules and being practical about getting the job done. A job is not a prison where you blindly follow rigid rules. Some employers actually want you to THINK.

But you make me consider this question: how do you deal with policies or guidelines that get in the way of your getting your job done?

I looked for support from the tech dept so that I could work more, and work harder. If the company had fired me for "breaking the rules," as you state your company might, I would consider the company dumb and myself lucky -- and move on to a company that was more committed to rewarding the most productive employees. Sometimes getting fired is a very good thing -- a door closes but a window opens.

Do the ends justify the means? In this case, I certainly think so. But this is not always true.

Posted by: Leslie | April 14, 2008 2:15 PM

"how do you deal with policies or guidelines that get in the way of your getting your job done?"

I talk to whoever it is who can change either the policy or how it's applied to my job, whether that's my supervisor or the person whose policy it is. I feel like I'm repeating myself, but I strongly prefer to be direct and straightforward about things.

Posted by: LizaBean | April 14, 2008 2:24 PM

LizaBean

"I feel like I'm repeating myself, but I strongly prefer to be direct and straightforward about things. "

Ditto.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 2:27 PM

"If the company had fired me for "breaking the rules," as you state your company might, I would consider the company dumb and myself lucky -- and move on to a company that was more committed to rewarding the most productive employees."

If the company is a federal agency and the reason for the rule is the security of data that pertains to American citizens, then maybe it is not a dumb company. Ever hear of identity theft, lost or stolen laptops, or corrupt employees selling personal information (a lot easier to do when you are not working in the office) In addition, any techies setting up remote access for an unauthorized employee would result in their firing also.

Posted by: to Leslie | April 14, 2008 2:27 PM

"how do you deal with policies or guidelines that get in the way of your getting your job done?"

Deny all requests for flextime, work from home, and time off for child care. Keeps the childfree workers happier and more productive than when they have to pick up the slack for others.

Posted by: the boss | April 14, 2008 2:35 PM

the boss

"how do you deal with policies or guidelines that get in the way of your getting your job done?"

"Deny all requests for flextime, work from home, and time off for child care. Keeps the childfree workers happier and more productive than when they have to pick up the slack for others."

LOL

Posted by: Ha, ha | April 14, 2008 2:37 PM

//If the company is a federal agency and the reason for the rule is the security of data that pertains to American citizens, then maybe it is not a dumb company. Ever hear of identity theft, lost or stolen laptops, or corrupt employees selling personal information//

Not everyone works for the feds, and we know Leslie doesnt. Chill.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 2:56 PM

"Not everyone works for the feds, and we know Leslie doesnt. Chill."

Sure, but Leslie needs to chill, too. Not everyone has her setup and she should realize that by now. She shouldn't insult others by implying that they don't THINK.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 3:01 PM

//Sure, but Leslie needs to chill, too. Not everyone has her setup and she should realize that by now. //

Ha ha, "But, Mom, she started it!!"

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 3:19 PM

Here we go again. If a particular tip does not apply to you, ignore it. Not everything applies to everyone. Plus, being nice to the tech and admin support people is a very good idea, whether or not you have remote access from home.

It just irritates me that some people have to pick a fight over nothing. Get a life!!

Posted by: Emily | April 14, 2008 3:49 PM

Sure, but Leslie needs to chill, too. Not everyone has her setup and she should realize that by now. She shouldn't insult others by implying that they don't THINK.


Posted by: | April 14, 2008 3:01 PM

Since you're busy implying that no other company in the universe has figured out how to secure data AND allow employees to use home computers, perhaps your time would be better spent learning some social skills. If you ever get bored with pick, pick, picking at Leslie, you are fully qualified to teach an entry-level class at your local community college: Holier Than Thou 101.

Posted by: Fiddle Dee Dee | April 14, 2008 3:50 PM

And, Leslie, it is unlikely any company will allow you to have a personal setup to get on the company system. They will allow you to have their computer and they will allow you to access it their way. You can ask for all the stuff you need, and typically will get it depending on what you do, but they will rarely allow you to do anything but check email on your personal computer.
--------------------------------------------

I work for a nonprofit in DC and we have access from home on our own computers, thanks to a commercially available program--if we want it. We can log into the network, access files and all of the network drives that we have access to on-site, and actually do work, not just check e-mail.

Not everyone wants such access (those who arrive and leave exactly on time, all the time, and would never work a minute overtime), and not everyone who has that access telecommutes. It's just a nice thing to have if we have to be out due to an emergency or if we realize that we need to get something done before the next work day.

I consider myself lucky to have this option.

Posted by: Lynne | April 14, 2008 3:55 PM

"I consider myself lucky to have this option."

I consider myself lucky to have survived today's topic.

Posted by: YAAWN | April 14, 2008 4:09 PM

And I've been offered a number of promotions. I wouldn't work where the above is required.
------

Jake, do you make above or below $120k per year? You've really been offered promotions and you refuse to use a blackberry? Are you still making, you know, $75k because of it?

Posted by: DCer | April 14, 2008 4:32 PM

In fact, diligent work and competency can sometimes hinder Joe Officedog's chances for promotion - "We can't take Joe off the project right now, not unless we hire 3 other people to take his place..."

------

I have never seen this play out in real life and I've been managing people for 5 years and been in an office environment for 20. I've heard people tell of a friend of a friend or use it as an excuse not to get ahead in life, but no one has ever really had this happen to them.

Posted by: DCer | April 14, 2008 4:36 PM

Money is not necessarily worth more than time. It's lovely to make a great salary, but if you can make enough to live on AND still get to spend time doing things you care about with people you care about, that's balance. That doesn't mean never working extra hours, but that should be an exception, not a rule. Studies show that people who work shorter hours and fully focus on their jobs while there are more productive than workers who are always connected and never get to recharge. Some jobs require more connection, of course, but a lot of urgent tasks can wait until the workday starts. This is just one more way that employers exploit workers and create a climate of fear.

Posted by: restonmom | April 14, 2008 4:42 PM

"Hey, that was me deleting those posts, and I deleted several on Friday. In order to make an argument for registration-freedom, I need to nip nasty posting in the bud. I believe in freedom of expression but not in being mean-spirited."

Nice to know that you consider yourself THE moral authority. God forbid your readers should decide. Please get over yourself Leslie. Bring back registration if it means we get to post our true feelings, not just what Leslie deems appropriate. My God, welcome to the Soviet Union.

Posted by: antiPatrick | April 14, 2008 4:48 PM

GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!! Gonna delete that one too, Leslie??? What, should I have declared my allegiance to Cuba instead? I love this country, I love our Constitution, and I love our Bill of Rights. It's sad that you don't feel the same way. But please admit it, and don't hide behind some bogus crap about retaining login-free posting. Personally, I loved login posting. It didn't stop me!!!! GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!!!!

Posted by: antiPatrick | April 14, 2008 4:51 PM

My foolproof solution to getting a promotion is, no matter what job you have, be the manager. I don't mean take over the manager's work or step on their toes, I learned that when I was 14. I had a dumb office assistant job and complained about people telling me what to do, so my father, who really didn't do his career any favors, told me to act as if I was the manager managing me. I had a 2 hour shift every day and came in with my schedule for those two hours written on notebook paper in pencil and I taped that schedule to the wall and I followed it. In a matter of days I became the most productive teenage staffer. I left that job at 16 and got a new job and became the assistant store manager at 17. I managed many different teams, but if I start off my managing myself first then I get promoted. If I require someone else manage me or assign tasks to me, then I don't, If you work in an office where someone assigns you work, ask yourself "Why?" It's unnatural for adults to get work assignments, really. If you can't run the business then go work someplace else, because you'll never run the business.

I know what I wrote may appear harsh, but seriously, I know people who spent their entire lives working for other people's goals and I don't think that's anyway to live (for more than 5-10 years). I was a federal employee for 5 years before I figured it all out, for instance. Just ask yourself, do you really want to spend your life working so the owner of your company can get wealthy off your labor? If not, then you have to have a plan to make yourself the owner of a company before, let's say, age 55. It's either one choice or the other, but some people want to put their hands over their ears and pretend it's not happening.

Posted by: DCer | April 14, 2008 4:51 PM

Wow, DCer! You are omniscient? Yes, sometimes people don't get promoted because they're really good at a particular job and their bosses don't want to try to replace them. Sometimes they are also seen as fitting that role so perfectly that it's hard for others to imagine them in a different role, even when they're ready for new challenges. And not all organizations reward hard work with opportunities for advancement--many just pile on more work for the same money.

I have to say when I decided to leave one job, my boss simply asked, "What can I say to change your mind?" Since I knew he couldn't offer me the same money, and even if he had, I would have left anyway for the better skills and opportunities of the new job, I said, "Nothing." Then I stayed at the new job through thick and very, very thin until a fortuitous layoff.

Posted by: restonmom | April 14, 2008 4:52 PM

That doesn't mean never working extra hours, but that should be an exception, not a rule.
-----

So what do you think of farmers who put in 14 hour days? Actually, you're dead wrong, 8 hour days ARE the exception.

Posted by: DCer | April 14, 2008 4:55 PM

Wow, DCer! You are omniscient?
---

No, I belong to a professional society that brought up that topic you profess to be real as a well-known canard. None of us knew of any instances where someone was not promoted because it would be hard to replace them. It's much harder finding qualified people at higher skill levels than easy ones. I know because I recruit people.

What often is the case in difficult situations is that there are people who are smarter than others, but who in some fashion produce less work or profit to the company. I have a person on my team who is VERY smart and a VERY good programmer, but goes off and does work for days until I track down what he really spent his time on and force him to get back on schedule. He will never move into management because he can't be managed and won't manage himself.

There are also bosses with personal axes to grind from racism, sexism, elitism or anti-elitism. My mother was, I felt, abused by an anti-elitist boss who wouldn't promote anyone from Ivy League schools. My mother quit and that entire division was shut down and outsourced to India due to that boss's crazy ideas and failed leadership. It can happen, but it doesn't happen in businesses that aren't collapsing.

I have also not gotten jobs I wanted because I was competing with 4 or 5 coworkers who all had similar enough skills and experience. In one case they picked a real dolt to move up and he only lasted 3 months before they out and out fired him. Like the above, the situation resulted in failure.

I just am not familiar with any kind of ongoing corporate environment where it would be easier to find a manager who knows a line of business than someone doing the actual work, unless that person was unqualified for that promotion OR in the case where the business does not have the capacity to handle someone at a new level. For instance, my dentist has an office manager who complains to me that she could be managing a bigger office and needs a bigger salary- but she happens to work for a small dentist with no partners!!! I mean, the writing is on the wall, you know?

So, no, having recruited for many slots, I don't by your argument. It's ALWAYS easier to train someone for the lower-skilled job.

Another catch-all solution I have is to complete your master's degree or if you have one, complete your PhD. That worked for everyone I know.

Posted by: DCer | April 14, 2008 5:11 PM

Wow. I'm not sure I've ever been told what I should want, how I should get it, and by when, in quite such hysterical, self-righteous and rambling terms.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 5:24 PM

I've changed my own preferences in learning to manage my boss. She almost never reads email, so I talk to her face-to-face. She can't stay on schedule, so I drop by to see her, rather than make appointments which will waste my time. She needs hard copies of everything, so I always bring her a copy of what I'm briefing. She is apt to go off on tangents when problems arise, so I always have several solutions to problems I tell her about. She CAN'T adapt to me - I've changed for her. Its less efficient for her, but I've benefited greatly - she leaves me alone to do my own work, but always promotes me.

Posted by: babsy1 | April 14, 2008 5:27 PM

Babysy1 - I've enjoyed your comments (for what that's worth! Trolls beware). You seem wise and candid, a nice combo.

Your last post reminded me of something one of my old boss' boss gave me on the sly...a Harvard Business Review article titled "Managing a Difficult Boss" and you could have written it yourself...great advice...to get ahead you have to accomodate your boss (you know, within reason here) and make your boss look good. Without your boss catching on that you are "managing" him or her. I kept that in my desk drawer for every boss. The bosses change, but the approach stays the same.

Posted by: Leslie | April 14, 2008 5:47 PM

*sigh*

antiPATRICK / bababooey and his hysterical, ALL CAPS, punctuation-lovin' sanctimony are ba - ack.

Posted by: MN | April 14, 2008 6:22 PM

Et tu, Leslie? It's so disppointing to read a blog about work/life "balance" suggest that working parents be accessible to their employers 24 hours per day, every day.

To all working parents: IGNORE THIS ADVICE!!!


Posted by: Jane | April 14, 2008 6:33 PM

The focus of the column was top 10 tips for getting promoted. If you don't want to get promoted, ignore the tips. It's just that simple, whether you are a parent or not.

Posted by: To Jane | April 14, 2008 6:37 PM

Jane -- My belief is you can have balance AND get promoted, too! That's what these tips -- take 'em or leave 'em -- are about. I know personally that you can be very involved with your kids, be very good at your work, and not lose your sanity. Well, okay, sanity was never something I really had to start with...

Posted by: Leslie | April 14, 2008 6:39 PM

Seems like everyone is so intent on forcing a one-size solution, from DCer on one end to Jane on the other. What works for you depends on what you want. For me, Jane, being available in the off hours is the tradeoff for having a lot more control over my hours generally - it might sound counterintuitive, but my boss knows he can call whenever, and he also knows that I may not actually be at my desk working at 2pm on Weds. It's not the solution for everyone, but it's worked out pretty well for my position, so that's fine.

Posted by: LizaBean | April 14, 2008 6:50 PM

"Actually, you're dead wrong, 8 hour days ARE the exception."

8 hours a day are the norm where I live and work. Not everyone is in DC.

Posted by: another view | April 14, 2008 8:11 PM

"Since you're busy implying that no other company in the universe has figured out how to secure data AND allow employees to use home computers,"

Figuring out how to secure the data in a system is not the problem. The problem is allowing the data to leave the secure premises - Do you really think that NSA and the CIA allow top-secret data on the home computers of more than a handful of select employees? The system might be secure, but there is little control of who goes in and out of the employees' houses.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 8:29 PM

Great example. Every company needs the same level of security as the CIA. Come on, Leslie obviously wasn't talking about the CIA, get over yourself.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 10:03 PM

"antiPATRICK / bababooey and his hysterical ..."

First of all, I'm a woman. And second, oh my God. Did you just call me "hysterical". Do you not realize how OFFENSIVE THAT IS???? Do you not understand the origin of that word? You have slimed me and all women. Apologize, you sexist pig!

Posted by: antiPatrick | April 15, 2008 9:10 AM

Not everyone works in a corporate environment. Many people, especially in DC, work for nonprofits, local, state, and federal government, and small businesses. There are many ways to get ahead while still having some work/life balance, and there are plenty of jobs in those other areas that also will expect more than 40 hours. You can excel while not working insane hours, however, if you're focused and really good at what you do. If you CHOOSE to work in a position that forces long hours on you if you want to secure a promotion, fine. I know that's truly the case for many people, including lawyers and managers who wish to ascend to the top spot someday. But in my experience (in academic, nonprofit, corporate, and government environments) the people who worked the most hours were generally the least productive, because they practically lived at the office and had no boundaries. I like the approach taken by the SAS software CEO: a happy worker who doesn't have any home front worries (including car repair, dry cleaning, day care, elder care, health care, exercise) is a productive worker who focuses on his or her job when at the office. Big deadline, work more hours. No big deadline, go live your life after work.

Posted by: restonmom | April 15, 2008 10:16 AM

I've worked in association management for 17 years. I once had a co-worker who had been at the association for almost 50 years. He was very old school and could not keep up with technology or the way things were changing in the workplace.

He sacrificed everything for the job. He worked most weekends. He and his wife lived in different parts of the US. He never saw his grandchildren.

He never complained and always called himself a "good soldier"

When the management "persuaded" him to retire, they planned on a salute to him at the annual meeting. But due to scheduling difficulties, that was dropped from the program on site.

At 50 years of service, he was a manager, the same as I was with four years of service. I also found out that he was the lowest paid manager at the association.

I learned a lesson: "No one is going to drag up into the light where you belong"

Posted by: associationguy | April 15, 2008 12:55 PM

I've worked for my company for 12 years 11 of them as a parent and have been promoted twice. I probably could have advanced faster but have chosen to remain at a site not corp. wide job to avoid travel and in fact I have a more stable job. I stick to working my 40 hours, arrive early every day but also leave at or before 5. When I do have a child care emergency or sick child, I definately use my laptop to work from home, but don't make a big deal of out it.

Posted by: Parent | April 15, 2008 11:55 PM

I was told yesterday that although I am a strong candidate for a management promotion- I wouldn't be considered unless I give up my telecommute/short (by 2 hrs) day. I explained I was sure I could do the job and continue to telecommute. Hiring person agreed but those above believe that management has to be in the office every day. It's ridiculous - we all travel and things get done. I'm more available when I'm home b/c I have fewer distractions.

Posted by: m | April 16, 2008 3:16 PM

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